IDIDTHAT is obsessed with Giant Films director Karien Cherry. Ranked as the Number 1 director in the African & Middle Eastern region by the 2020 Loeries, Karien has built an illustrious career, becoming one of the most sought-after directors in the country. She won her first Best in Craft in IDIDTHAT’s Craft Awards back in 2015 for her outstanding work on New Balance’s ‘Baby Vs Dale Steyn’ and we’ve been die hard fans ever since. Having recently judged the Direction Category at the D&AD Awards for the second year in a row, Karien shares her thoughts on the work she wishes she did, her superpowers, bucket list and how she’s almost 2000 weeks. This is what Karien Cherry is obsessed with.
WTF is IDIDTHAT’s OBSESSED Series?
Here we showcase the humans in the film and commercial industry that we think you need to know more about. We invite selected heavyweights, tastemakers and rising stars that have not only had their work awarded at IDIDTHAT’s Craft Awards but are also contributing to raising the standards of film craft in South Africa. In this series, we get to share who we are OBSESSED with and get them to share what they’re currently OBSESSED with too. Find out what they’re binging, the work they wish they did or what trends, apps and even snacks your favourite filmmaker is OBSESSED with.
What is a South African commercial you WISH YOU DID?
Karien: The one that immediately came to mind was the Nando’s ‘Last Dictator Standing’ by Dean Blumberg from Massif. Solid gold. It’s witty and fun and speaks to our collective irreverence. Here’s lookin‘ at you Nandos!
What seat on the plane do you have to have?
Karien: Right aisle seat. Aisle, because I detest the awkward shuffle of climbing over everyone to get up. (It’s a question of etiquette…) And right aisle because I’m left-handed and like to write on the plane…
Who is the one person on set you couldn’t live without?
Karien: The person who doesn’t take their eyes off the monitor. When I get to work with someone who is obsessed with their craft and its role in what’s being created on screen, I keep them close. Film is collaboration. Your work is only as good as the people you get to work with.
If you could choose any superpower what would it be?
Karien: Definitely the ability to stop time. That allows you to control everything else. It’s the ultimate superpower. Which I have just shared with the world… sigh. That said, my favourite current superhero is Fista Puffs – the alter ego persona of Molly from the animated musical series Central Park. Seriously, I hate musicals (long story) but our family is obsessed with this show! Also, there’s Stanley Tucci voicing an 80yr old lady, what’s not to love!
Fista Puffs Theme Song.
What piece of technology are you loving right now?
Karien: AI. Yes, it’s a buzzword, a scary word, an exciting word. Whatever you think about it, it’s here and it’s fundamentally changing the way we live and work and love in this world. I’m loving the liberating possibilities it brings while being simultaneously wary of where *AGI will take us…
*AGI – Artificial general intelligence
What app are you obsessed with right now?
Karien: Not obsessed in that way, but I wouldn’t function without my Google Calendar app. Everyone who works with me knows, if it’s not in my google calendar, it’s not happening!
What are you currently binging?
Karien: I’m rewatching Better Call Saul. Episode 1 of Season 1 is a master class in filmmaking – Vince Gilligan is such a class writer… Other shows I’d re-binge are Fargo, Breaking Bad, Ozark, The Great, Sex Education… So many great shows! So little time! I’m working on getting into some episodic work so trying to learn from the best!
What is a recent piece of creative advertising work you wish you did?
Karien: Super. Human. for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. It’s such a delightful piece of work – and a great example of craft serving concept.
*This Judges Insights video from D&AD’s direction jury that Karien was on discusses the very best work from the last year. Watch the whole 30mins if you want a dose of inspiration, or skip the bit about the Paralympics spot from 20mins in. She throws around superlatives about how good it is from around 24:18…
What are the two things you can’t live without?
Karien: My AirPods and books… I could survive the apocalypse with only those two things.
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
Karien: Taking a few months’ sabbatical and travelling around Africa with my family.. I was born in Malawi, grew up in Zimbabwe, and travelled all over Africa as a kid. I want to give my son the same exposure to different people and places so that his mind is opened up to the wildly different iterations of the human experience… Right after the next commercial break…!
You have R1000 to spend on your last day on earth, what are you definitely doing?
Karien: Who’d care about the money?! I recently *learnt that if you get to live till 80 you’d have been on earth for 4000 weeks. That’s crazy… I’m almost at 2000! And if that doesn’t force you to confront the finite nature of your life I don’t know what will. How we choose to spend our time has the single biggest impact on our lives. Choosing to spend time on one thing inevitably means there will be five other things you don’t get to spend that time on. And when you realise that, you begin to think about the things that create real meaning in your life, and you try to choose those. Of course, money is important, but it’s not the thing I’m going to spend my last day on earth even vaguely thinking about. I will be with my people. On a beach, or in the mountains, or somewhere beautiful – that gets good light!
(This is from a wonderful book called “4000 Weeks – Time management for mere mortals” by Oliver Burkeman. Sounds boring, but it’s more of a philosophy book that unpacks our modern culture of productivity.)
What about the advertising and commercial industry is inspiring you right now?
Karien: I’m inspired by the level of creativity that exists in the top rung of our industry. I’ve been very privileged to have judged D&AD for the last two years and wow – when advertising is good it’s fucking great. I’m so inspired by the level of craft that’s coming from filmmakers and creatives around the world, and that’s what keeps me here.
BEST IN CRAFT (Direction) SAB ‘Dream Big’ Giant Films | Karien Cherry
Awarded by Chantelle dos Santos and Fausto Becatti
‘The beer category has many tropes; traditionally featuring celebratory moments with that Toto backing track or a beergasm of golden liquid shots, set in a sexy bar with questionable lighting. Karien did none of that. She was able to capture delicate moments, sincerely. The opening scene is quiet, small and intimate; the music subtly draws you in. It’s so restrained with great performances that help land the message clearly. This is why Karien deserves Best in Craft.’
– IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Chantelle dos Santos, Creative Director at Ogilvy JHB
‘I have seen scripts like this before, and I’ve seen them executed really badly. It’s very easy to over-cook them. There’s a subtlety and restraint happening here with the direction from Karien, in all aspects of production, that I think translates and champions the idea very well. It left me feeling positive about South Africa, for a classic South African brand. And that’s valuable.’
– IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Fausto Becatti, Director at Bioscope Films
BEST IN CRAFT (Direction) Chicken Licken ‘Easy Bucks Campaign’ Giant Films | Karien Cherry
Awarded by Kabelo Moshapalo and Marc Algranti
“Whether you’re taking it all in as holistic brand TVC or branching off to the genre-specific executions that span various and quite specific cinematic worlds, the dynamic direction flows effortlessly. Every scene and every scenario carefully considered to ensure that each performance lands its intended punchline. Lots of fun and lots of laughs, packed full of local flavour.”
– IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Kabelo Moshapalo, ECD at TBWA Hunt Lascaris
“Karien really had a massive job on her hands with this campaign. She absolutely nailed all the genres. I don’t how she managed to direct so many different genres in what I imagine was a short amount of time. Each of the scenes are credible and the comedy is on point. She managed to get wonderful performances and delivery out her actors. Well done to Karien for getting them to all to work together so seamlessly, these are all really enjoyable to watch and put a smile on my face every time I watch them.”
– IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Marc Algranti, EP / Music Supervisor at Pulse Music
Craft Mention (Direction) Giant Films | Karien Cherry
Sanlam ‘Conversations with Yourself – Pushups, Neighbours, Forklift’
Awarded by Bridget Johnson
‘A shoutout to Karien Cherry from Giant Films for Sanlam ‘Conversations with Myself’ for nailing the technical challenge of these spots so seamlessly. Well done.’
IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Bridget Johnson, Consulting Executive Creative Director at WICK
Craft Mention (Direction) Giant Films | Karien Cherry
KFC Africa ‘Keep Rolling’
Awarded by Stuart Stobbs
‘Humour, it’s a funny thing – and damn hard to crack. However, Karien and Giant Films have flirted with ‘slapstick’ the whole way through but brilliantly managed to keep this ad firmly in “damn funny”. I just keep showing people this commercial – excellent stuff.’
– IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Stuart Stobbs Chief Creative Officer at 1886 Advertising
‘I thought the Sanlam ‘Tax Free Experiment’ was really well told and the timing was great.’
– IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Donovan Bryan, Executive Creative Director at Owen Kessel Leo Burnett
IDIDTHAT’s December 2015 Craft Awards
Best in Craft (Direction) Giant Films | Karien Cherry
New Balance ‘Baby vs Dale Steyn’
Awarded by Jonathan Beggs
‘The outstanding TV commercial this month is not a TV commercial but an online piece for New Balance, where the world’s best fast bowler is put through his paces trying to keep up with the daily routine of a toddler. It’s an unexpected, charming idea from King James, and I suppose it was always going to be interesting (celebrities and cute kids are up there with cats as internet hitmakers) but it’s beautifully handled by Karien Cherry from Giant Films. Directing celebrities and kids (and cats) is a lot easier than watching them!’
– IDIDTHAT Guest Judge: Jonathan Beggs, Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi